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Guilty Plea From Former Union Head

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SCRANTON -- A former union leader admits to stealing thousands from the teachers she represented.

The former president of the Wyoming Area Education Association pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing at least $30,000 from that teachers union in Luzerne County.

Lisa Barrett of Shavertown came to be arraigned on a felony charge of embezzling funds from a labor union but a federal judge ended up accepting her guilty plea in the case.

Her attorney claims that Barrett spent some of the money she stole from the Wyoming Area Education Association on the union itself.

"She is devastated and she's a nervous wreck," said defense attorney Chris Powell.

Powell says the former teacher and president of the Wyoming Area Education Association admits using the teachers union debit card to make at least $30,000 in purchases between 2006 and last year.

Barrett spent some of the money on herself for things such as meals and shopping.  But Powell says the rest of it was used for the benefit of the union but would not explain how.

Barrett stepped down from her teaching and union president positions in August.

A federal charge was filed just as teachers in Wyoming Area hit the picket lines demanding a new contract with higher salaries. It's the first time that teachers in the district have gone on strike in nearly 40 years.

Students are expected back in the classroom on Friday when the strike ends.

A federal judge told Barrett that the maximum penalty for the embezzlement charge calls for five years in a federal prison.

Prosecutors asked the judge for a reduced sentence saying that Barrett has accepted responsibility and promises to pay back the teachers union.

"Not the school district, not the pension fund or anything else like that, the real victim here is the union and we'll satisfy the union by making full restitution," Powell added.

Barrett was released until she is sentenced in January.

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